Identifying foot and ankle problems in children as early as possible is especially crucial. Their feet, like the rest of their bodies, are still developing. If issues are not resolved quickly, they may lead to bigger problems later in life. Early detection is key. Preventative care is the best form of care.
Pediatric Podiatrists Have Specialized Knowledge
Your child may already see your family doctor, or they may have a pediatrician. In either case, it makes sense to visit your primary care provider. You may have noticed something with your child’s feet, or it may come up during a routine checkup. A doctor can see a problem, but they have more general medical knowledge.
By comparison, a pediatric podiatrist has specialized knowledge. They’ve trained specifically in assessing and treating foot problems in children. A podiatrist is specially equipped to diagnose and treat foot disorders. This starts as early as infancy, when problems may first present themselves. Or, they can be issues that develop in toddlerhood and early childhood.
If your doctor detects a possible cause for concern with your child’s heart, they may refer you to a cardiologist. If there is a skin issue, you may be told to see a dermatologist. Going to see a podiatrist about foot and ankle conditions is no different. Specialized knowledge can make all the difference.
This is not at all to discount the contribution of a pediatrician. Rather, it’s about leaning into specific expertise to treat specific issues. A podiatrist may notice signs that a family doctor may miss. It’s the same when coming up with an appropriate treatment plan. It’s about having your child’s best interests at heart. That way, you can address potential issues as early as possible.
Treating Podiatric Conditions in Children
Some foot problems are apparent at birth. Other issues develop as toddlers learn how to walk. Children of all ages can experience foot and ankle issues. While some children grow out of them, many require treatment. Even if they grow out of the issues, it’s worth it to reduce their discomfort.
Among the podiatric conditions in children that we see are the following:
- Flat feet. While normal in babies, flat feet are a problem if the child is over five years old. Children can experience pain and gait issues.
- High arches. The opposite of flat feet, overly high arches can also be problematic. A podiatrist can help encourage a healthier form.
- Heel pain. Podiatrists treat not only feet, but also heels, ankles, and legs. They’re all connected. Heel pain can cause children to limp or run oddly.
- In-toeing or out-toeing. These may be a symptom of a skeletal or neurological disorder. This can also lead to strange gaits and uneven shoe wear.
- Ingrown toenails. These can be especially painful and cause redness and swelling.
- Plantar warts. A wart may form if a virus enters the skin through a small cut.
- Sports injuries. Children can be rough while playing, testing their limits on the field. Podiatrists treat a variety of sports injuries in kids too.
- Hammertoe and mallet toe. These toe deformities aren’t just cosmetic. They can cause mobility issues. This condition can make it difficult for children to participate in activities.
What to Know Before You See a Podiatrist
If you are unsure, bringing your child in for an initial assessment is a good idea. Remind them that there is nothing to be afraid of—because there isn’t! A podiatrist visit should not be a source of fear or stress.
Your child does not need to suffer through pain, discomfort, or soreness. These could all be signs of a foot problem. The podiatrist will usually start with a consultation. They’ll ask why you came to see them. A physical exam typically comes next. They may ask the child to walk around the room so they can see their gait. Depending on the issue, other tests may be required.
Your podiatrist will review your child’s medical history. Coupled with the initial exam, they can provide an initial diagnosis, if there is one. They’ll answer any questions you may have and explain your options. It’s never too early to take your child to the podiatrist. In fact, the earlier, the better. Let’s get them back on their feet, pain-free.